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How common are wrong-site surgeries?

While surgical patients in Kentucky may share national concerns about wrong-site and wrong-person surgeries, statistics from a 2009 study suggest that only one in 112,000 procedures tend to involve these kinds of errors, known as WSPEs, which are also nicknamed “never events” since they are fully preventable medical errors that often result in serious personal injury or even death. The Joint Commission has released Universal Protocol for all hospitals to follow to prevent such errors, but hospitals and surgeons are not always effective at adhering to these policies.

The most common types of wrong-site surgery occur at the wrong site or on the wrong side of the patient’s body. Less common are WSPEs involving the incorrect procedure or procedures performed on the wrong patient entirely. One notable example of wrong-patient surgery involved a heart surgery that was performed on the wrong patient due to a clerical error between two patients with similar names.

The Universal Protocol designed to prevent WSPEs requires surgeons to take what is known as a surgical timeout prior to surgery. Timeouts give all surgical personnel time to pause and think about the steps they have to take before performing the procedure. This break is designed to allow surgeons and personnel to achieve a calm state of focus, but it is rendered ineffective in cases where the timeout is rushed or ignored altogether.

Victims of WSPEs in Kentucky hospitals may benefit from consulting an attorney for guidance in pursuing a medical malpractice case. If the wrong-site surgery was performed as the result of negligence, the patient may be eligible for compensation for relevant medical bills, the cost of surgery and personal damages suffered as a result of the injury. WSPEs are serious and preventable medical mistakes, and a malpractice attorney could help to ensure that the hospital is held responsible for its actions.

Source: Patient Safety Network, “Wrong-Site, Wrong-Procedure, and Wrong-Patient Surgery“, October 23, 2014